Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood - Part 1

I gave you an insight into redheads and the ordeals they faced over the centuries last week. Today I'll introduce you to the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and the “face” of the Pre-Raphaelites, the very first supermodel, Elizabeth Siddal.

The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood (known as “PRB”) was founded in London in 1848 by William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, English poets, artists and critics.
They named themselves “Pre-Raphaelite” because they believed the classical poses and elegant compositions of Raphael in particular had been a corrupting influence on the academic teaching of art.

The fact Elizabeth Siddal (known as “Lizzie”) achieved such prominence was a remarkable feat given just about everything about her went against the standards of what was popular in Victorian times.  She had flowing, wavy locks of red hair, was tall and slender with large eyes.  In 1849, when she was 20 years old, Lizzie worked as a milliner in London. She made a meager salary of 24 pounds a year but soon discovered she could make more than double as a model for artists.  Being a model during this era was not viewed as socially acceptable.  No woman with morals would consider such a profession.

Lizzie was discovered by Walter Deverell in 1849 and, through him, was introduced to the PRB.  While posing for Millais' Ophelia (1852), Siddal had floated in a bathtub full of water to model the drowning Ophelia. 

Millais painted daily into the winter with Siddal modeling. He put lamps under the tub to warm the water. On one occasion the lamps went out and the water slowly became icy cold. Millais was absorbed by his painting and did not notice the lamps were no longer working. Siddal, however, did not complain and eventually became very sick with a severe cold or pneumonia.

From 1853 on, Lizzie was the primary model for Dante Gabriel Rossetti.  After he met her he began to paint her to the exclusion of almost all other models and he insisted she stop modeling for the other Pre-Raphaelites.  Lizzie was interested in art and showed promise as an artist and poet in her own right.  After meeting Rossetti, she became his student and struggled to be recognized as an artist in a world dominated by men.   

More next time - Happy stitching!  Cheers!


  1. I love your post so much
    Thank you
    Hugs x

  2. Did you watch Desperate Romantics??? That's the only reason I know about Lizzie Siddall and the pre-Raphaelites. So interesting!

  3. I missed it! I also wanted to see The Love School. This was such a fascinating time - I guess I love art and its history.

  4. Loved the PRB!!! Thanks for the info on Lizzie! She is a beauty!